What is qualitative research?

If you really want to understand what your target customers think and feel then qualitative market research can provide tangible insight into your products and services, your industry competitors and your customers’ pressure points.

Put simply, qualitative research lifts the lid on what people think and, more crucially, why they think it. It’s a personal form of market research that enables you to learn the motivations and feelings of your prospects and existing customers.

Qualitative business research methods can be invaluable when your business is at the product development stage or in the process of creating new marketing strategies, allowing you to test the water and refine your approach.

The benefits of qualitative exploratory research

Primary qualitative research provides a top-down understanding of people’s reasoning, opinions and motivations. It can give businesses like yours the opportunity to understand customer problems and pinch points in order to develop ideas and hypotheses for potential quantitative research.

Imagine your business is going into production with a brand new line. The most effective way to ensure your new products receive the best possible reception from consumers is to get prototypes in the hands of target customers or existing brand advocates. Hosting focus groups with four to eight people or even one-on-one interviews can give you the ideal forum for unbiased discussion.

Is your new product visually appealing? How does it compare to similar competitor products available on the market? This type of qualitative discovery will almost always throw up a handful of pertinent issues that can then be ironed out before launching the product into the big wide world.

What are the challenges of running a qualitative research group?

Obtaining clearly defined results from qualitative research can be the biggest challenge of any small business conducting market research. It’s possible within your focus group that certain respondents will say something just because they think that’s what you want to hear; resulting in potential bias.

Selecting the best person to interview your focus group and moderate discussion among the group is crucial. Someone who is independent from the decision makers of the business would be most suitable as they’ll remain unbiased and encourage the focus group to speak frankly.

A good focus group moderator will encourage an interview session to flow freely in an unstructured format, giving respondents the opportunity to discuss all aspects of a product as they see fit. The moderator should also be adept at monitoring body language throughout the session as this can be a very effective way of understanding a respondent’s true feelings.

Put simply, qualitative research is the most effective way to understand the attitudes and behaviour of your target demographic. It’s an opportunity to get under the skin of your respondent’s initial responses and discover what really drives their decision making.

The key to long term business growth is understanding your market and taking full advantage of the opportunities available to you. If you’re setting up in business but you need to know more about your industry to make better informed business decisions, sign up to our ‘How do I research a business idea?’ workshop today. Our experts will open your eyes to the high quality data available at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre across a vast range of subjects to help you successfully develop and grow your business. Visit our events page to view our upcoming events.

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